Woody: elusive or common?

Published: Apr. 24, 2012 at 8:33 PM CDT|Updated: May. 8, 2012 at 9:17 PM CDT
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SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - On April 24 we brought you a story about the possibility of a critically-endangered bird sighted in East Texas.

I managed to get video of what one man thought could be the ivory-billed woodpecker. Biologists have been trying to find one for years, but have had no luck.

I spoke with an expert about the mystery woodpecker to answer the question: is it really the ivory-billed woodpecker?

No. It's not the ivory-billed woodpecker. Allan Mueller, a wildlife biologist, says the bird in question is a pileated woodpecker.

The two birds have minor differences, the most prominent being white feathers on the bottom half of the wings which are visible while perched. Allan talked with Dave Gabbard, who spotted the woodpecker, and Allan found out he could see video of the woodpecker at KLTV.com.

"Oh, immediately it was a pileated. There was no doubt about it. I was sure glad to see your footage up there because it made the whole process easier," Allan said.

It saved him a flight from Arkansas to East Texas to confirm the bird's existence, which would have been followed by a $50,000 reward from Cornell University for proof that the ivory-billed woodpecker is still around.

Mueller was involved in a four-year search for the elusive bird. He believes they are not extinct.

"I think they are still hanging on in Arkansas and in Florida and Louisiana as well, but they are very secretive. They live in areas that are difficult to get to, way out in swamps," Allan stated.

The pileated woodpecker we showed you was sitting in a tree 60 yards from a road. Allan says the ivory-billed woodpecker stays clear of everyone.

"I appreciate everyone recording these things. I think someday somebody's going to come up with a bird when we're not expecting it, so I continue to encourage people to continue to report sightings they think would be ivory-billed," Allan concluded.

So, keep trying. It might be worth your while.

Cornell is still offering the reward: $50,000 to anyone who can take one of their biologists to the nesting site of an ivory-billed woodpecker.

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